Sam Bennett is back in France for the first time since winning the prestigious green jersey at last year’s Le Tour.
Paris-Nice will start for the 12th consecutive year from the Yvelines department, with the small town of St. Cyr-L’Ecole welcoming the riders on Sunday for a stage that could see either the sprinters or the attackers prevail, and that’s due to its up-and-down course. Monday should be the first clear opportunity for the peloton’s fast men to fight for victory – that is if the crosswinds will agree – before a rolling 14.4km individual time trial that will create the gaps between the yellow jersey contenders on stage 3.
From there, the peloton will head to Chiroubles for a punchy day featuring seven classified climbs, including the Mont Brouilly, where Julian Alaphilippe won an ITT four years ago. As the race will continue its progression towards the Mediterranean, Thursday will mark a return on flat terrain which will be followed by three stages that will be decisive in the final outcome: Biot, La Colmiane (16.3km, 6.3%) and Nice, with the last of these set to feature again the iconic Col d’Èze (1.6km, 8.1%).
Winner of two stages at the first World Tour appointment of the year, the UAE Tour, Sam Bennett will make his first appearance in Europe this season and will once again rely on trusted lead-out man Michael Mørkøv to guide him in the sprints, but also on Florian Sénéchal, whose skills were instrumental in the team’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad victory.
“Paris-Nice is a race with a lot of history, and at the same time, a very hard race. Normally it has a lot of crosswinds, so it’s good to come here having that week of racing in the Middle East in the legs, where I got used to this kind of aggressive racing. There should be some nice opportunities for the sprinters, the team is very strong and hopefully I’ll have good legs again so we can continue our season on the same note”, said the best sprinter of last year’s Tour de France.
Mattia Cattaneo, French ITT Champion Rémi Cavagna – who’ll get to show his beautiful tricolour jersey on stage 3 – Tim Declercq and Yves Lampaert will complete our seven-man squad for the 79th edition of the “Race to the Sun”, to which the Wolfpack is looking forward, as explained by sports director Tom Steels: “Paris-Nice is one of the biggest stage races out there and this year we have a good shot at getting some nice results with Sam, but we want to see also what Rémi and Yves can do in the time trial. Same goes for Mattia, who had a solid UAE Tour last week and we are now curious to discover what he can do in the general classification.”